Bentley pardon’s Clyde and Henrietta, honors the late Willie C. “Bill” Bates Jr.

Published 6:08 pm Thursday, November 21, 2013

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
It’s official. Governor Robert Bentley, with First Lady Dianne Bentley by his side, officially pardoned both Clyde the turkey and his girlfriend Henrietta at the Governor’s Mansion in Montgomery on Wednesday.

Bentley also presented a commendation for the late Willie C. “Bill Bates Jr., the late owner of Bates Turkey Farm, to his daughter Rebecca (Becky) Sloane, who was accompanied by her brother Thomas Bates.

Thomas Bates operates the family turkey farm in Fort Deposit, and Becky operates Bates House of Turkey in Greenville.

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Wednesday marked the first turkey pardoning ceremony since Willie C. “Bill Bates Jr. died. He presented the first turkey of the 65 -year long tradition to Governor James E. “Big Jim” Folsom in 1949.

“It’s hard to think about with him not here,” Thomas Bates said of Wednesday’s event.

He said this year Clyde 65, as he was tagged, is about a 65 pound, 14-month old turkey, and Henrietta is 16-weeks old. Both will be on display at the state Farmers Market.

Sloane thanked everyone for attending the traditional turkey pardoning her father started in Alabama.

“I knew it was going to be hard the first year without my dad,” she said. But she said her father was most proud of growing up in the depression, serving his country during war and living the great American dream.

She said it was fitting her family made their dream come true by “raising and marketing the American turkey.”

Sloane said her mother, Teresa, was unable to attend Wednesday, but that she worked side by side with her father to keep the family business going.

Sloane said her father was so committed to Thanksgiving because the Pilgrims came here to enjoy freedom.

She said the pardoning tradition is something her family wants to continue for another 65 years.

She and Thomas Bates also presented a turkey for the governor to enjoy from the Bates family and employees.

Bentley said Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday. He thanked turkey growers and farmers who provide food for families.

While Bentley pardoned Clyde and Henrietta, he said, to Sloan and Bates, “But really more important than that, I was to present this commendation to you and your family for Mr. Bill Bates.”

He said Bates was a man of honesty and integrity who also loved God, his family and his country and called him a source of pride for the state of Alabama.

He commended “W.C. Bill Bates Jr. and the entire Bates House of Turkey Family for their role in continuing this Thanksgiving tradition in Alabama.”

Following the ceremony, Sloane said, “It was so emotional… You’ve got to get up and do what he wanted you to do. So, that’s what you do. And then the pride that you feel to be able to carry on something that he had done for so long and was so proud of just means the world to be able to carry that on.”

She said her last promise to her father was to continue “what he and mother started.’